“DAD, it’s me”, were three words that stopped Alfred Ngaro from hitting his eldest son with a closed fist over the loss of a new $45 pair of shoes.
As a graduate of Bible College, Mr Ngaro said his reaction to the situation was a shock as he was supposed to be “one of the good guys”.
He is now a face of the It’s Not OK family violence campaign, and is spreading the message in Parliament as a National Party list MP.
A three-day national hui to help combat violence against women and children started over breakfast at the Tatapouri Sports Fishing Club this morning.
Many men had not had the positive male role model of a father in their lives but that did not stop them from being one themselves, said Mr Ngaro as he recounted the story of pinning his son up against a wall.
“Something was wrong with that picture. I was a contributing citizen, I had been an electrician, I had even gone to Bible College where supposedly you were meant to learn about giving people good news.
“Yet to my own son, instead of giving him love and care and a sense of discernment, I gave him my judgement and was about to give him my pain.”
The first thing his wife said to him after the incident was, “you need to go back and see your dad”.
That began his journey to restore the relationship with his father.
“I had to forgive my dad because he didn’t have what he could give to me. His dad died when he was young so he didn’t have a father figure.”
Even practitioners of change were not perfect and every day you could make a fresh start, he told the white ribbon hui of around 80 men and a handful of women.
Although it was like “preaching to the converted”, he wanted to share the message with the practitioners who did the mahi, that to be champions of change the challenge you had to be a champion of change yourself.
Introduced as a dad, a “sparky” and a Member of Parliament, Mr Ngaro was a handy man who knew how to make a difference and the power of change when people got together.
Family violence had been around since the world began and human beings were there, he said.
“This is nothing new, but what are we going to do about this issue?”
The Gisborne Boys’ High School choir sang three songs and were acknowledged by the speakers as the future generation to carry on the message of anti-violence.
One of the speakers, a former Boys’ High student, Judge Peter Boshier said he was always very proud to return home.
Pausing before you engaged was the simple message the Principal Family Court Judge wanted the participants at the men’s hui to take back to their communities.
Judge Boshier said New Zealand was still too much of an impulsive nation for contact.
Combining the recent re-think of how the rugby scrum was played was a useful analogy that could be applied to road rage and family violence, he said.
“One of the huge powerful forces of any rugby team is that scrum. And yet things have changed a bit with the concept of what a scrum is and what its purpose is.”
It had moved from the “crunching terrible exercise” to “crouch, pause and engage”.
“I want to seize on that. Why we wanted to change that part of the scrum is because it pays to settle what it is that you are going to do before you do it.
“I would like us to pause before we engage and it’s my sort of rearrangement of the new scrum.”
New Zealand’s attitude had changed with smoking and drink-driving but there was still too much violence, he said.
“There’s still too much of an impulsive nature, we are still going for contact before we think.
“What if in all the instances of family violence someone had just paused and thought before they engaged. A split second later it might not have seemed like a good idea.
“I would really like us men in Gisborne, which is a leader in this field, to begin the attitude to change.”
The White Ribbon hui will head north this afternoon to take the message of non-violence to the East Coast.
In his welcome, Mayor Meng Foon congratulated the white ribbon message.
It was a necessary thing for men across the region, country and world to stand up together and admit first of all that there was a problem, he said.
“And secondly to do something about it. It’s not OK to you know what. I’ll say it — it’s not OK to hit our women.”
■ On the United Nations International Day of Peace, businessman and philanthropist Owen Glenn this morning announced he will be funding an independent inquiry into domestic violence and child abuse in New Zealand. See page 6 for the story.